Heatwave can act as a “wake-up call” for the planet

Last week’s glorious weather may already be a distant memory, but it must serve as a warning of the planet’s uncertain future amid the deepening climate crisis.

This is the stark warning from two of Ireland’s leading climate experts. Both pose the question of “how many wake-up calls are needed” before the world addresses the threat of climate change.

“On the one hand, it was great to see such beautiful weather and people enjoying it. But it’s important to look at the reasons why it happened. And those reasons aren’t good,” said John Sweeney, professor emeritus of geography at Maynooth University (MU).

“Because of greenhouse gases, it is now between 10 and 100 times more likely to experience extreme weather events like the current heatwave across Europe. It confirms the role of climate change as the main driver.

“It all adds up to the fact that the driver is more of a human being than a natural. Without addressing climate change, we face – there will be persistent and increasing extreme weather events.”

And it won’t just be 30°C heat waves that we’re facing, but severe flooding in the winter and water shortages in the summer months.

“I am very conscious of not being alarmist. But the scientific reality is that we will experience these weather events with greater frequency and severity,” said the co-founder of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit (Icarus) at MU.

“The heatwave we just saw is a record-breaking and historically significant event, surpassing a 135-year-old record.

“But in Ireland, temperature will not be a critical variable, although we will start to see warmer summers. The real variable will be more rainfall.

“We will have much wetter winters causing flooding and drier and hotter summers, particularly in the east, which means water shortages.

“There are some very vulnerable countries in the Horn of Africa and the Pacific and tropical Indian islands, including the Maldives and Fiji.

“The viability of their cultures is currently under direct threat. You have an unsustainable future. This affects the whole world. We had a series of wake up calls. How much more do we need?”

Ireland, like many other countries, does not take seriously its legal obligation to counteract the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Prof Sweeney said.

“We have to start taking our legal requirements regarding carbon budgets seriously. We have a responsibility to the next generation. We cannot leave them an unsustainable future.”

The climatologist Dr. Kieran Hickey, head of the Department of Geography at University College Cork (UCC), said people in search of the sun may need fewer holidays abroad – but stressed that’s not necessarily a good thing.

“It won’t happen every summer in Ireland, 30C heat waves, but it will happen for a number of years. But this weather is absolutely not to be celebrated.

“There have been new heat records across Europe this summer – I never thought I would see 40C in England in my life. It is an indication of the path we are on in terms of the rate of climate change.

“The climate crisis is best described as a runaway truck. We haven’t even slowed it down, let alone try to stop it completely and turn it in the opposite direction.”

He agreed with Prof Sweeney that Ireland will now experience increased winter rains and flooding, coastal erosion, storms and the end of hurricanes. All of this will weigh on our economy.

The world still has time to turn the situation around, he believes, but the window is closing fast.

“Time is not on our side, but it is not yet up. We have between 10 and 15 years where we can make significant gains.

“The problem is that there are so many other things that world leaders have to deal with – Covid and the outbreak of wars – that climate change keeps falling off the agenda. The big challenge is that the modern economy is based on burning fossil fuels and this fact cannot be changed quickly.

“We need global cooperation. The US, China and India need to make significant changes. And Australia, which is the largest coal producer.”

In comparison, Ireland is a small player on the international stage. But that doesn’t mean we should shirk our responsibilities, added Dr. Add Hickey.

Preliminary figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Thursday show greenhouse gas emissions have increased nearly 5 percent over the past year.

“We’re not doing our part. It doesn’t matter that Ireland plays a small role,” said Dr. hickey.

“Every citizen has to do their part, that starts with recycling and less resistance to things like wind farms.”

How concerned is Dr. Hickey on the sustainability of the planet?

“I no longer worry that it was me 10-20 years ago when this was first projected. But the speed is a cause for concern, particularly the melting of the polar ice caps, which will have a massive impact on sea levels.

“This has the potential to happen now in a few hundred years instead of thousands.”

The likelihood of another August heatwave in Ireland is “probable,” he added.

“I would by no means admit that summer is over. We should all enjoy it while staying safe. But we need to be more aware of why this is happening, and it’s not good news.”

https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/heatwave-can-act-as-a-wake-up-call-for-planet-41862847.html Heatwave can act as a “wake-up call” for the planet

Fry Electronics Team

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